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A few weeks ago I found the perfect place in which to set my story.  The bulk of the story takes place at a fair.  Since I decided that the story would take place in New Castle, PA, I decided to google parks in that city.

New Castle has a great park called Cascade Park.  The park has a waterfall and a wonderfully rich history.  Researching the park also helped me work out some of the problems I was having with the story.  

The park has a waterfall, a dance pavilion and a stage.  All of which are going be featured in the story.  The park also used to have a trolly car in the neighborhood.  I love street cars.  They are kind of romantic and bring up wistful images of a bygone era when life was simpler and somehow more pure.

Ok, no such time ever really existed, but I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t at least try to convince you it that I thought such a time was possible.

But back to streetcars.  The city I grew up in still had trolleys when I was a little girl.  They stopped running them after I was maybe 5 or 6, but I do remember riding one.  Many years later, they tried to bring the trolley back and made it a sort of trolley/subway.  It only runs from the south end of town into the city where it has 3 stops underground.  It’s more like a ground level L train like the one in Chicago than it is a streetcar, but it is still pretty cool.

My next plan is to take a quick road trip to New Castle and check out the park.  I want to get some pictures, check out the waterfall and the stage.  

Maybe if I’m lucky, I may even find old trolley tracks poking through the pavement.

Wish me luck!

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I did a post the other day about my love of movies and books.

Well, tonight I will talk about a true guilty pleasure of mine.  Oscars!

The nominees are are in.  Designer gowns are being prepped.  Critics are critiquing.  Long-winded acceptances speeches are being written.

For the record, I do not believe that anyone jots down a hurried thank you on a napkin “just in case.”  They all have a prepared acceptance at the ready.  I mean, let’s face it.  They have all been practicing those speeches since the first time they donned their father’s old suit or mother’s dress to put on a home performance of some kind.  You cannot tell me that none of them stood in front of a mirror with a brush or high school trophy and uttered those oh-so-famous words.

I know I have and I have no aspirations to be an actor. (OK maybe that was an over-share.)

But I love the Oscars.  My only regret this year is that I have not been able to see all of the movies on the nominee list.

I did see The Help and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but not before reading the books, (and in the case of the latter, seeing the Swedish movies as well), but that is hardly enough to make a valid judgement.

When it gets closer to Oscar night, I want to make my best guess at the winners.  I have done that before.  I used to write a movie review column for my company’s newsletter.  One year, I made Oscar predictions and I was right about all of the main categories.  Of course, this year will be a little more difficult since Lord of the Rings is not in the running, but I think if I see some of the movies which have nominations, I might do OK.

So, let’s see how it goes.  Share your winning guesses and let’s see how we do on Oscar night February 26, 2012!

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Did that make you cringe?  Yeah, me too.

With Emmy-Oscar season upon us, I have been thinking a great deal about my love of movies, which often leads to thinking about my love of books.

I love to read.  I’m not a fast reader, nor would I qualify myself as a voracious reader.  But I feel comfortable saying that I probably read more than the average bear.

I also love the movies.  I do not limit myself there either.  I love the sappy rom-com as much I love heady, intellectual documentary or biopic.  I crowd into theaters with the masses to watch the big summer block-busters as quickly as I do to see the latest Oscar contender.

For me, reading books and watching movies are not necessarily mutually exclusive activities.  As any Twi-hard Potter-maniac will tell you, seeing the movie is simply the natural extension of reading the book.  I love having  stories and characters from books brought to life through movies.  Yes, there are always disappointments, the second Bridget Jones movie for example. But then movies such as Lord of the Rings are a wonder to behold.

So, imagine my horror when a friend said to me, “There’s no point in reading Lord of the Rings, there’s a movie now.  Besides, the books are too long anyway.”

My answer:  Read the book(s).  The book is always better than the movie.  I have never come across an instance where the movie was better than the book.  Never once.  Furthermore, reading  opens the creative center of the brain, forcing you to imagine the scenes and people in the stories.  Movies are fun, yes, but watching a movie lacks the interaction the reader has with the story and the author.

I also find that many movies based on books are not true to the book.  Plots are sometimes changed, characters changed or several characters are merged.

The problem with making a book into a movie is often time.  Movies cannot plod along plot points, description and dialogue, certainly not in a 90 minute period.  Fortunately, movies have many more devices to tell a story available to them that books do not.  Movies can use music and imagery to tell a story in a way text cannot convey.  I can forgive losing a character or a plot point if the story is told creatively or told in an interesting manner.

Let me give you two examples from two movies that I love.

Lord of the Rings:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy I think was brilliantly portrayed in the movie as written and directed by Peter Jackson.  Yes, some of the story was changed, but I thought he did a great job of distilling the main point of the movie down into an enjoyable movie experience.

One of the things I most enjoyed was how he used imagery to tell the story.  In the second movie, LOTR The Two Towers, the story begins with Gandalf falling in Khazad Dum to what is assumed his death.  There we find out that he fell, but did not die.  He fought the Belroq monster until he hits the water.  At which point, Frodo awakens from a dream.  Later in the movie, Strider, Legolas and Gimli meet Gandalf in the forest and then we learn the rest of the story, told partly through dialogue and partly through imagery.

In the book, the reader does not have any inclination that Gandolf will return until about almost the halfway point when Strider, Legolas and Gimli meet him in the forest.  He then explains in great detail what happened to him in Khazad Dum and beyond.

Here’s the problem…who has time for a 15-20 minute monologue in a movie?  The Lord of the Rings movies are already 2 1/2 to 3 hours long.

I love how Jackson handled that.  His use of imagery and dialogue did three things for me in this instance.

  • He dropped a hint that Gandalf was returning to the story.
  • His use of imagery – dream sequence at the begining of the movie connected it to the first movie reminding everyone about where we left off.
  • He condensed the monologue from the book into a 1 minute conversation that told Gandalf’s tale quickly to move the story along.

The Age of Innocence

I’ll start with this movie by stating the obvious, Martin Scorsese is a genius.  Of course, one expects someone to say that when refering to some of his other heavy hitting movies such as Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Taxi Driver.  All excellent movies without question.  The Age of Innocence, however, is one of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations.

First off, the adaptation from book-to-movie is the best I have ever seen.  To my recollection, Scorsese left out one character and kind of merged her with another character.  Then he glossed over the wedding and wedding breakfast scenes from the book.  Not crucial scenes in my opinion.

His use of imagery and voice over were just genius.  He brought to life the early 20th century with his use of color, scenery and costume.   His use of voice over captured the conservative sense of conformity and rigidity in the higher archical society that was turn of the century New York City.

He did what many film makers have tried to do for decades.  He took a piece of literature and successfully translated it from book to screen.

So, why read the book?  You tell me.

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Every year my writer’s group begins the year by reviewing the writing goals each member set out for themselves the year before.  Then we each state new writing goals for this year.

Last year, my goals were to write more, submit more work to the group for review and enter more contests.  All of which I did.  And before you ask, no I did not win any of the contests I entered.

This year, my goals are slightly more specific.  One of my goals this year  is to blog at least twice a week.  Here it is, Saturday and I am already behind.  Not a great start I’ll admit, but the week’s not over yet.  My other goals are:

  • Finish the first draft of the middle-grade novel I’m writing.
  • Write more short stories.
  • Enter more contests.

I already have a short story done and ready to go.  Now, if I could only remember to upload it to my writer’s group website for review so that I could use it for a contest, I would be well on my way to starting some of my other goals!

I have a year of hard work ahead of me.  Wish me luck!

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This is the general summary of the novel I will be working on for Nanowrimo.

Set in New Castle, PA on Gwendolyn’s 13th birthday, she attends her local community’s Mayfair, defeats the evil witch (fortune teller) Morghanna and protects her hometown from the Dragon!

Gwendolyn Knightly is an imaginative young girl on the cusp of her teenage years.  She is facinated with the Arthurian legends, often regailing her best friend, Lara McNair fantasitical tales of the brave knights, Lords and Ladies of Camelot.  She is frequently tormented by her older sister Trisha (the Horrible) and irritated by her mother’s constant nagging to set aside the trappings of childhood and act more her own age. 

Reality and fantasy collide when Gwen has her cards read at the Mayfair by Morghanna, the evil witch deisguised as the local forturne teller (or so she suspects).  She and her friends are plunged into a race against time to save their town, vanquish the witch and defeat the Dragon.

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Two days left to the writing extravaganza of the fall 2011.

30 Days.
50,000 Words.
I have a story, an outline and character sketches.  I downloaded Scrivener to my Macbook. Everything is organized.  The only part left is the actual writing.  
To write 50,000 words in 30 days, requires a lot of discipline.  I have to write 1667 words per day, every day for 30 days.  With a full-time job and at least 15 hours of overtime a week, it could be a bit of a challenge.  But I think I can do it.  
I start November 1.  I will check back here often.  Posts may be short as I will be saving most of my writing for my actual story, but I will try to update my progress frequently.
Wish me luck!

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Last week at my writer’s group, we did a writing exercise, which we do every other week. One of the guys brought in personal ads from the book, “Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor.” It is a collection of newspaper and journal personal ads from 1727-2004. We were to use these ads as a writing prompt and write something.

I chose to answer one of the ads.

Here is the ad I chose:

Monster seeks damsel. Hungry Beastie desires voluptuous damsel for chasing about, carrying off and general “distressing.” Beastie passionate and gentle. Would love to have YOU for dinner.

Here is my response:

Dear Mr. Beastie,

I hope you don’t mind if I call you Mr. I don’t want to offend your monster sensibilities by being too formal, but being a lady it is my nature. I found your request for a damsel to distress quite intriguing. You see, for years I have been waiting for my knight in shining armor to come and rescue me. But in this modern world, with all of its many conveniences, women have a great deal of autonomy and have little need of rescuing. What is a girl to do? Being carried off by a monster may be just the solution to my problem. So, if you do not mind being slain by whatever brave knight that comes to my rescue, I would be delighted to make your acquaintance.

Affectionately,

Damsel in need of distress

And the monster responded:

Dear Ms. Damsel,

A Challenge! Just what I have been looking for. It has been many years since I have had to fend off would-be heros from my prey…er I mean, female companions. I gladly and heartily accept. Would love to meet over coffee to discuss general terms of capture and attempted rescue. If, however, your knight-errant fails in his quest for your hand, heart or any other body part, perhaps you would consider honoring my initial request.

Yours affectionately,

Beastie

OK, so I know its really goofy and has no literary value whatsoever, but it was fun to write.

This style of writing exercise is called using prompts. Someone gives you an idea, a word or a phrase and asks you to use some element of it in whole or part and write a story. The contest I entered last year gave us a starting phrase, “The fire burned…” and we had to write any story we wanted in less than 1500 words that started with that phrase.

This is one example of the kind of writing exercises we do at our writer’s meetings.

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